On the b-side of her strange 1975 post-yé-yé folk schlager Refais-le-me-le (comme à Ibiza) – Let’s Do It (Like We Did on Ibiza) in English –, unknown French lolita pop bird Minouche Sterling invented the famous chord progression that was stolen the same year by Shirley & Company for their worldwide smash hit Shame, Shame, Shame.
Sure, you’re right: I made that one up. The producers of Minouche’s unperceived 7“ probably thought that no one would ever play the b-side; it’s one of the most shameless (and funny) rip-offs in French pop history. In fact, Shame, Shame, Shame – written by Sugarhill Records founder and too seldom sung soul/ disco/ rap pioneer Sylvia Robinson and released by the lesser known Linda & The Funky Boys almost simultaneously with Shirley – was one of the first international breakthrough disco/ dance hits, and everybody tried to cash in on the success. In France, television personality Christian Morin did an instrumental version featuring his quite mangy sounding clarinet, while jack-of-all-trades Henri Salvador unleashed a flea bag of a cover version including the rabid replacement of „Shame“ through „J’aime“ – genius! The worst cover was surely done by German 50s overbite idol Peter Kraus – a funk-goes-boof-tah must-have provided by FS confidant Roy Black with the well-meant advice: „Buckle your seat-belt before playing.“
Minouche Sterling – Non mais des fois
There’s more to the Shame, Shame, Shame story. Soul singer Donnie Elbert recorded a cover of Love is Strange in 1974. He then claimed songwriting credits of Shame, Shame, Shame, saying that his vocals were replaced by those of Shirley Goodman & Jesus Alvarez. The case got real muddy when Shirley & Company followed up S, S, S with Cry, Cry, Cry: same groove, different lyrics. But those lyrics were very similar to Donnie Elbert’s You’re Gonna Cry When I’m Gone, also from 1974. The squabble was never resolved. But wait – there’s also George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby, featuring the licks extraordinaire of guitarist Jerome Smith, one of the unsung heroes of the era. Set to the s(h)ame groove. And he was definitely the first to use it. And he got a nod from John Lennon, who based his Whatever gets you thru the night on, you guessed it, that irresistable groove.
Donnie Elbert – You’re gonna cry when I’m gone
Donnie Elbert – Love is strange
Shirley & Company – Cry, Cry, Cry
George McCrae – Rock your baby
John Lennon – Whatever gets you thru the night
Of course, Shame, Shame, Shame was (like Love is Strange) covered many times. See model Izabella Scorupco’s version here, and see Cher & Tina Turner here.